Why is making new habits so challenging?

TL;DR Making new habits is difficult because of the brain’s resistance to change. Physiologically, the brain’s neurological pathways favor routine and efficiency. However, practical strategies, consistency, and understanding cognitive mechanisms can help overcome these hurdles and establish successful habits.

Making new habits can be tough. Our brains like familiar routines, so trying something new can feel hard. But if we know why it’s hard and use smart strategies, making and keeping new habits gets easier and more rewarding.

Something Interesting About Habit Formation

Did you know that our brains are wired to conserve energy by establishing routines? When we try something different, it takes more brainpower and might make us feel a bit uncomfortable. This feeling is called “cognitive dissonance.” It happens when what we do doesn’t match what we believe or usually do. So, when we try new habits, our brains resist because they want to save energy.

You may also want to read: What is a Habit Loop?

So what do you do when you really want to focus on making new habits?

If we understand why it’s tough and use helpful tricks, we can add good habits to our lives. Learning about how our minds work and using smart methods can help us beat the challenges and make lasting, good habits. Here are a few suggestions:

Start Small

Introduce tiny changes that are easy to incorporate into daily life. For instance, if aiming to drink more water, start with adding a glass of water to your morning routine. Why? Small changes are less intimidating for the brain and gradually pave the way for bigger adaptations without triggering resistance.

Consistency is Key When Making New Habits

Repetition and consistency are crucial for habit formation. Set specific times or cues for your new habit. For instance, if you plan to exercise, designate a time each day. Consistency reinforces neural pathways, making the behavior more automatic over time.

I talk about this in an Instagram Post

Leverage Triggers

Associate new habits with existing cues or routines for better adoption. For example, if trying to incorporate meditation, link it with an existing habit, like after brushing your teeth. Triggering new behaviors from established cues helps integrate the habit into daily life seamlessly.

Set Achievable Goals

Clearly define your objectives to maintain focus and motivation. Instead of a vague goal like “exercise regularly,” set a specific target, such as exercising for 15 minutes thrice a week. Why? Clear goals provide direction and a sense of accomplishment, boosting motivation.

Seek Support

Engage with peers or a support system to hold yourself accountable. Join a group with similar goals or share your progress with a friend. Social support increases motivation and creates a sense of accountability, fostering consistency.

When Making New Habits, Remember to Celebrate Progress

Lastly, it’s so important for you to recognize and celebrate milestones, no matter how small, to stay motivated. Acknowledge each successful step taken toward your habit goal. Celebrating progress releases dopamine, reinforcing the habit loop and making it more enjoyable.

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